All bark no Byte?

by Guest Contributor Ben Marshall | February 26, 2020

Author: Ben Marshall

Ben Marshall
Senior Marketing Executive
Kantar
https://www.linkedin.com/in/benjaminowenmarshall/


Monday saw the launch of new social media app, Byte, to much fanfare. Largely seen as the spiritual heir to the dearly-departed Vine, it’s easy to see why: it retains the central Vine offer of six-second looping videos, many of the original Vine stars have already established a presence, and indeed its creator is one of Vine’s co-founders. But can this upstart compete with the likes of TikTok?

First, a history lesson. Founded in mid-2012, Twitter purchased Vine in October 2012 before launching the phone app seven years (to the day!) prior to the launch of Byte. It quickly began to gain traction, soon reaching 100m users. It created bona fide crossover celebrities such as Shawn Mendes, King Bach and (unfortunately) Logan Paul. But beneath the surface the strain was beginning to show. Brands had begun to de-emphasise Vine as part of their channel strategy, and 20 or so of its top creators banded together to rectify what they saw as failings on behalf of the app’s senior leadership. When they couldn’t come to terms with each other, the top content creators began to leave the app, in favour of YouTube and other sites. Four years after purchasing the start-up, Twitter announced it would be mothballing the app.

From the ashes, came the Byte phoenix. As early as 2017, founder Dom Hofmann teased a successor to Vine. After wrangling a variety of “financial and legal hurdles”, Byte was finally announced in November 2018, and finally released to the public earlier this week. But how will it fare in a world that has changed so much since Vine’s heyday? TikTok now commands over 800 million monthly active users and is one of the most downloaded apps in the world. It, like Vine, it has been responsible for launching the careers of superstars, most notably Lil Nas X. Launching an app that seems to be in direct competition with this behemoth may seem unwise at first, but there’s potential for Byte to carve its own niche.

TikTok, although hugely popular, still doesn’t have a way for creators to easily monetise their efforts. This seems to be one element in which Byte has learned from the failures of Vine; as they have recently announced a detailed partner program for its creators. During its pilot phase, 100 percent of ad revenue will be shared with creators, and while this will be small during the initial phase of the app, it’s a very obvious stake in the ground for how they intend to work with its users, and could be integral in enticing back erstwhile Vine stars and social media celebrities from other platforms.

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Plus, the residual fondness for Vine cannot be overstated. Ever since the platform closed, it has retained a dedicated fan base, who will collate and publish ‘Vine compilations’ to be shared on YouTube or Facebook. These remain incredibly popular, to the extent that a bespoke digital rights management agency has been established dedicated to recovering revenue for reposted vines, which has generated over $100m in earnings for its clients. With recognisable Vine names such as Chris Melberger, Cody Ko & Josh Darnit already making their way onto the nascent app, it’s entirely possible we could see other Vine stars tempted back with the promise of a more collaborative atmosphere and equitable monetisation policy. Nostalgia can be a powerful drug, and the promise of seeing new content from old faces may be enough to develop a following.

What remains to be seen is how brands can leverage the platform, unless Byte can prove it can produce measurable results it may remain a niche concern. However, if it can successfully tempt influencers onto the platform or create a new generation of their own, the possibilities for brands could be endless. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts.

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